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Li'l Mo & the Monicats

Townhouse – 1997 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Li'l Mo & the Monicats

Like Robbie Fulks' "Country Love Songs," this album sets its tone by opening with Tim Carroll's song "Every Kind Of Music But Country." But Passin's version, featuring banjo and her old-timey hiccuppy vocals, makes it clear that she's spinning the concept in a different direction.

The New Yorker, who appeared on the 1992 Diesel Only compilation "Rig Rock Jukebox" (as did Carroll) cites Buck Owens and Wanda Jackson as major influences, and the music does nothing to contradict that. Were this a vinyl album, side one might be labeled "Buck Side" and side two, with a heavier dose of rockabilly and ballads, the "Wanda Side." Like most Wanda disciples, Passin has too thin a voice to really sound like the original; vocally, she comes off more like Rosie Flores. Although there are a few obscure covers tossed in, most songs were written by Passin.

These originals capture the sound so authentically that they could pass for obscure covers themselves. Here's that rare album that country purists and y'alternatives can listen to and enjoy together. (Available through Passin' Fancy Music, 212-750-5266)